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November 1996, Vol. 119, No. 11
Prevalence of drug testing in the workplace
Tyler Hartwell, Paul Steele,
Michael French, and Nathaniel Rodman
Substance abuse has compelled many U.S. firms to create strategies that would help keep it out of the workplace. Some firms have sponsored elaborate and extensive programs to control alcohol and drug misuse.1 However, these programs have tended to rely on a supervisors, a coworkers, or an employees judgment about the presence of substance abuse in another individual or themselves. In the 1980s, some firms began to adopt drug and alcohol testing as an objective strategy to detect and control substance abuse. Advocates of this approach assert that an employees positive test results can be linked to impairments in job performance, safety risks, and absenteeism.2
While drug testing programs span many segments of society (including suspected criminal offenders and automobile operators), this article focuses on the prevalence and characteristics of drug testing programs in private-sector workplaces within the United States. First, we describe the proliferation of drug tests as evidenced in earlier studies. We then present our findings from a national telephone survey conducted in 1993, which estimated the prevalence and characteristics of testing programs, and descriptors of worksites most likely to implement them. We discuss the implementation of various types of programs (that is, preemployment, random, regular), the types of worksites that conduct such tests, and the employees who are eligible to be tested in those worksites. Research findings are discussed within the context of social policy and the findings of earlier research studies. Lastly, we offer some comments regarding the future of testing and its integration with other workplace substance abuse control strategies.
This excerpt is from an article published in the November 1996 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 See William Sonnenstuhl and Harrison Trice, Strategies for Employee Assistance Programs: the Crucial Balance, Second Revised (Ithaca, NY, ILR Press, 1990); Harrison Trice and Janice Beyer, "Work-related outcomes of constructive confrontation strategies in a job-based alcoholism program," vol. 45, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1984, pp. 393404; and Harrison Trice and Mona Schonbrunn, "A history of job-based alcoholism programs; 19001955," vol. 11, Journal of Drug Issues , 1981, pp. 17198.
2 Steven Gust and J. Michael Walsh, eds., Drugs in the work-place: research and evaluation data, Research Monograph 91 (National Institute of Drug Abuse, Washington, DC, 1989).
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